Editor's note: Lanny Davis, a Washington attorney and former special counsel to President Clinton, specializes in legal crisis management. He is executive vice president of Levick Communications and the author of "Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping with Crises in Business, Politics, and Life" (Simon and Schuster/Threshold, 2014). He represented the Washington Redskins on matters including the controversy over the team's name until January; he has not represented the NFL or Roger Goodell. The opinions in this commentary are those of Lanny Davis.
Yes, Lanny Davis has not represented Goodell or the NFL. He has just represented an NFL team regarding a potential name change of that team and Roger Goodell is the commissioner of the NFL and agrees with Davis's position on the issue. So other than representing one of the NFL owners Roger Goodell works for and furthering a position Goodell agrees with, Lanny Davis has nothing to do with the NFL.
Is there any way to ... well ...
To use too many ellipsis in one sentence? Yes, there is. And that's strong coming from me, a person who uses and misuses ellipsis way too often because I have no regard for traditional grammar rules.
defend Roger Goodell?
Lanny Davis defended Bill Clinton, helped birth Seth Davis, has helped out to defend the Redskins name, and has worked for overseas presidents who are dictators and commit human rights violations. Defending Roger Goodell? Piece of cake.
When everyone is piling on, it's time to take a breath and say: We need more facts, less reliance on media reports based on anonymous sources and over-heated pundits who are too ready to rush to judgment.
So here is an opinion from an over-heated pundit who isn't rushing to judgment at all, and in fact is making no judgment, just pointing out no one should worry about facts or opinions right now and just give Roger Goodell another chance.
As I said on CNN's Michael Smerconish show on Saturday morning, of course Commissioner Goodell made a huge mistake in his decision to give Ravens running back Ray Rice only a two-game suspension after seeing the videotape of Rice dragging his then-girlfriend, Janay Palmer, unconscious, with apparent indifference, out of an Atlantic City casino elevator on February 15.
By the way, the guy who wants more facts and is totally up-to-date on the situation, and isn't just writing this column because he wants to defend Goodell due to his previous affiliation with the NFL, feels so strongly about this situation he HAD to write about it...well, he called Ray Rice the Ravens "free safety" in this column until it was corrected.
Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Ray Rice's football position. He is a running back.
I agree. We need more facts and less uneducated opinions on this topic. That's why Lanny Davis thinks Ray Rice should not be signed by another NHL team until he has undergone counseling and should not be under consideration for the Cy Young Award this year. Lanny feels strongly about this.
(Roger Goodell leans over and whispers something in Lanny Davis's ear, but Davis waves him off)
A month later Goodell realized he had made a terrible mistake,
(Goodell leans in again and Davis waves him off again saying he'll get to that)
sending a wrong message that domestic violence by NFL players was not all that serious and, thus, putting his own professional reputation and the NFL brand at risk.
Wow, these sound like some really heartfelt comments from Davis. Goodell is so sorry he almost fucked up the NFL's brand by not taking domestic violence seriously. The most important things to Goodell in his situation are his professional reputation and the NFL brand---wait, that's not right. I mean, Goodell cares about women and the fact they spend money on NFL apparel, but it would hurt the women too if Roger Goodell's reputation got hurt or the NFL brand was at risk. So Goodell is looking out for the women by looking out for himself and the NFL. I'm sure they understand.
So Roger knows he let everyone down by hurting the NFL bra---by not taking domestic violence seriously enough and hurting his professiona---Goodell understands he ruined some of the trust women had in him to make the right decisions. IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT? WHY IS THIS ALWAYS ABOUT YOU WOMEN? JESUS, WE LET YOU VOTE AND DRIVE. WHAT THE HELL ELSE DO YOU NEED? ROGER AIN'T ABOUT TO GROVEL. ROGER MAKES $44 MILLION PER YEAR AND HE DON'T GROVEL FOR NO BITCHES.
But then he turned in the right direction, following the three basic rules of crisis management, whether in business, politics, or life.
This is brilliant isn't it? The public should forgive Roger Goodell because he's really fucking good at crisis management. Apparently Roger wants to be treated like a four year old who isn't totally potty-trained yet. Sure, he shits his pants sometimes, but then he apologizes, makes cute faces and promises he'll tell you when he has to go to the potty again. Forgive Roger Goodell because he's really good at following the rules of crisis management. I am sure this makes sense to Lanny Davis.
First, he acknowledged that he made a mistake and took personal responsibility.
So repeatedly setting up friendly interviews, probably lying in those interviews, ducking the public when he can't answer questions in a controlled setting and then hiding while NFL teams struggle with how to punish their players who have been accused of violence against women or children, is taking personal responsibility. In that case, kudos to Roger Goodell for taking personal responsibility.
He showed that he understood, albeit belatedly, how serious male violence against women is. In his August 28 letter to all NFL owners, Goodell wrote: "I didn't get it right. Simply put, we have to do better."
Oh yes, you can tell by the "we" in that sentence Roger Goodell is taking personal responsibility. Just like Ray Rice's wife took personal responsibility for her part in getting herself knocked the fuck out.
I'm not a smart man, but when writing an official statement on a topic I don't think using the term "we" is taking personal responsibility necessarily. It's what is called "the proverbial we" which basically means "I am not taking personal responsibility, but will take some responsibility along with other unnamed people."
In an accompanying memorandum that would be distributed to all personnel in the NFL, he wrote, in bold-faced dark letters, the following:
He used bold-faced dark letters! This indicates super-seriousness. He must be forgiven. If the letters are bold, no grudge must you hold.
"Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They are never acceptable and have no place in the NFL under any circumstances."
"Which I know now. Please don't hurt my reputation because I didn't take domestic violence seriously enough in the beginning. I had no idea, until recently, that punching a woman was even illegal. Usually I have my assistant punch my wife for me, so I had no idea that an arrest could result. We are taking personal responsibility and we are sorry."
Second, he laid out a detailed forward-looking mandatory education and training program to implement this policy.
I'm loving that Lanny Davis thinks Roger Goodell should be forgiven, not for any other reason than he is very good at crisis management. This sounds like the typical out-of-touch bullshit that politicians try to shovel down the throat of Americans. If I were mad at Goodell, I should forgive him because he's good at public relations.
The third rule is to authorize an independent investigation to answer all the questions and verify the facts. And that is exactly what happened. Of course the emphasis is on the word "independent."
Which is why two NFL owners are overseeing this "independent" investigation. I'm pretty sure Lanny Davis doesn't understand the concept of the term "independent" if he thinks two NFL owners overseeing an investigation makes that investigation independent. Not only that, two of Goodell's most loyal owners are overseeing this investigation. I'm surprised Goodell didn't put his wife, Jerry Richardson, and himself to oversee the investigation. That's pretty much the only way this investigation couldn't feel less independent.
Two owners, John Mara of the New York Giants and Art Rooney II of the Pittsburgh Steelers, both of whom are attorneys,
Lanny, I don't think stating someone is an attorney holds quite the trust factor you think it holds. Especially since these two attorneys are incredibly wealthy people who also happen to be the owners of two NFL teams and Goodell works for them.
appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller III to conduct the investigation of how Goodell and the NFL headquarters handled the Rice matter.
Two attorneys who are also NFL owners and the former FBI Director who now has a law firm which just helped the NFL negotiate a contract with DirectTV in 2009. See, it's independent!
Mara and Rooney publicly guaranteed that Mueller will have full access to all information and all individuals. They have committed in advance to make the report public. It is safe to assume that anyone who refuses to cooperate with Mueller will be out.
Except Roger Goodell. No matter what happens, he's in.
I have read about doubts about Mueller's objectivity because he comes from a large law firm that has ties to the NFL. My response: Nonsense.
Lanny Davis can read you know. Lanny didn't want to mention this, but he's also an attorney. Yeah, he has a law degree. He's read the doubts about whether Mueller will be objective because he has worked alongside the NFL and NFL teams in the past. But his response is that he doesn't want this to be true, so in his mind, it won't be. Take that. In your face.
Robert Mueller is a former United States attorney, senior U.S. Justice Department official, and one of the most respected FBI directors in history.
Oh, Mueller is an attorney AND bureaucrat? Well, why didn't you say so? More importantly, does Mueller follow the three rules of crisis management? That is really the most important sign of what kind of man he is.
Washington is a tough town. I don't know of a single person in DC who knows Mueller who doesn't regard him as "untouchable" -- a modern-day Eliot Ness, tough with the highest level of integrity.
I don't know. I would maybe talk to Andrew Card or Alberto Gonzales. They may be wrong to feel this way, but I think Lanny Davis probably is using hyperbole here.
If Mueller finds that Roger Goodell lied about not seeing the second videotape or about what he was told by Ray Rice on July 16 when they met behind closed doors, Goodell will no longer be NFL commissioner. And Goodell knows that.
So Roger Goodell should get another chance because:
1. He's good at crisis management. He follows all three rules required to manage a crisis.
2. He didn't know domestic violence was so serious and corrected the two game suspension of Ray Rice after finding out domestic violence is indeed serious.
3. Goodell really did hire an independent investigator to find out if he lied or not. Sure, two of his loyal supporters who are NFL owners are the ones choosing the independent investigator, but see #1. That's how to manage a crisis.
4. The independent investigator probably isn't on the take and will be serious about trying to find out what was told to Goodell behind closed doors. He'll do the job he was hired to do!
So while Commissioner Goodell made some serious mistakes and dug himself and the NFL into a deep hole, he did a pretty good job of crisis management,
That's true, but the issue here isn't how well Goodell managed the crisis, but about whether he lied and deceived the public about what he was told by Rice and when. That is the issue at hand and why some people think Goodell should be fired. It goes to show how out-of-touch Lanny Davis is that he believes anyone gives a shit whether Goodell managed the crisis well or not. It's about what created the crisis. That is the issue. In Washington, maybe people get credit for following a crisis management handbook, but in the real world it is the actions behind what created the crisis that determines whether a person should keep his job or not.
Now after all the media and pundit frenzy, it is up to all of us to take a breath and wait for Mr. Mueller to complete his work -- and to let proven, verified facts speak louder and more persuasively than innuendo and anonymous sources.
It sounds great. Lanny Davis is assuming that everyone gets their day in court to prove what facts are correct and what innuendo and anonymous sources are incorrect. That's not how it works though. Ask Ben Roethlisberger if Roger Goodell cares about proven, verified facts more than he cares about innuendo, anonymous sources and the mere perception that some wrong was done.
If only we could do that.
Oh, if "we" could do that? Does that mean "we" are taking personal responsibility for this to happen?
I think Roger Goodell is going to get out of this Ray Rice crisis unscathed and with his job as NFL Commissioner still intact. Maybe it's right, maybe it isn't, but Roger Goodell doesn't deserve another chance because he's good at crisis management.
Don't worry Roger, Lanny Davis has your back on this one. Things change, but the good ol' boy system still works.